Apprenticeships remain crucial to the future of the UK construction industry

How can employers take matters into their own hands and start using apprenticeships to ensure they’ve got a workforce in place to shape the future of the industry?

14 March 2018 / Be the first to comment

By Edward Shaw, Construction Industry Manager - City & Guilds

Businesses across the UK face an uphill struggle when it comes to building a workforce that’s fit for the future. 

With Brexit close on the horizon and fears about the skills shortages that may cause heightened, access to skilled talent has never been so firmly on the agenda. Research from City & Guilds last year found that 87% of employers are already finding it hard to recruit the skilled workers they need. 

With the Government announcing plans to build 300,000 homes a year, nowhere is this more evident than within the construction sector. 

Official figures show that 12.6% of UK construction workers come from overseas, with 5.7% originating from the EU. This rises to a staggering 60% in London. Furthermore, with 30% of British born construction workers now over the age of 50, businesses will feel the pinch of those departing over the coming years through retirement. 

This week marks National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March), a timely reminder to employers of the important role apprenticeships have to play in plugging these vast skills gaps. 

So, how can employers take matters into their own hands and start using apprenticeships to ensure they’ve got a workforce in place to shape the future of the industry?

1. Embrace the Apprenticeship Levy

The Apprenticeship Levy, which came into play last year, has been unfairly written off by many employers as simply a tax. Requiring all businesses with an annual pay bill over £3 million to pay 0.5% of that bill into a central government fund, it’s not hard to see why it’s been met with some scepticism. 

However, this new way of funding apprenticeships is in fact a huge opportunity for employers to invest in the training and development that will futureproof not only their business, but the wider industry. 

What’s more, it’s not just the employers big enough to pay into the Levy who can benefit from it. Even the smallest of SMEs can tap into the central fund, meaning that 90% of their apprenticeship training costs are funded by the government. Large employers in the construction sector can even use 10% of funding to train people along the full supply chain, this is something we strongly recommended to address training needs in core construction skills. 

The new system undoubtedly needs time to bed in and establish itself. Once employers are maximising its full benefits, the new system will once again become the norm.

2. Look beyond the here and now
When used in the right way, apprenticeships are one of the best tools for helping employers meet their strategic and organisational goals. 

Whilst they may traditionally be associated with vocational training for school leavers, apprenticeships can in fact be taken by staff at all levels, of all ages, across a huge range of capabilities, from traditional craft to senior management. 

The trick for employers lies in uncovering the skills gaps, recruitment needs and development opportunities across the whole organisation, not just right now, but for the next two, five, even ten years. Working with training providers, they can then identify the best apprenticeship programmes to meet the demands. 

3. Use it or lose it!
Whilst looking to the future needs of the business is critical, the clock is ticking and employers need to start taking action now. Employers required to pay into the Levy will be able to access funds via digital accounts which must be used within two years. After that point, any money which hasn’t been paid will automatically go to the Treasury. 

With skills gaps increasing and access to international talent decreasing, employers need to continue celebrating and championing apprenticeships and the part they play in the future of the industry. Harnessing the funds from the Levy to upskill employees at all levels, from new entrant to site manager is critical, and there’s no better time to start than now.   

If you'd like to find out more about how to optimise your levy payments contact Liz Deakin 

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